The strange case of algal biofuels
29 Oct, 2008 12:19 pm
Algal biofuels are hot. The focus is on the production of algal oil (glycerol esters of fatty acids). The aircraft maker Airbus ?welcomes the idea?. The oil company Shell and the airline Air France are involved in the development of algal oil production, as are a number of start-up companies. I heard a representative of one of the start-up companies active in the field, Algae-Link, recently on the BBC Worldservice. He stated that algal biofuels are ?exciting because achievable? Algae-Link works with tubular bioreactors producing microalgae in greenhouses. Learned journals have now published a series of articles stressing the high productivity of algae in producing biofuels and their superiority to terrestrial biofuels. Media are also interested, and report the development largely as being awesome.
Finally, it is also hard to see why airlines and Airbus are interested. At the low temperatures of cruising altitudes algal oils will freeze.
The supporters of algal biofuels are apparently very good in their public relations. But as yet no convincing case has been made that in the real world algal oil makes sense.
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